Yesterday, a man at my church prayed for the people of Ukraine.
In the past few days, we have all watched the chaos and tragedy caused by the attack ordered by Vladimir Putin unfold. And while it has been heartbreaking to watch, it has also been inspiring to see the resilience and determination of the Ukrainian people as they fight to protect their country and maintain their freedom.
I have seen a lot of prayers and cries of support go out to Ukraine, but this one stood out to me. This prayer was not general, it was not surface level, and it was not sweeping. I don’t say this to criticize any other prayers or support, as the world needs all of them right now, but this one acted as a bit of a wakeup call to me.
In his prayer, he asked us to identify with the people of Ukraine. Not just think of them, not just pray for them, not just hope for their peace and safety. He asked us to remember that they are people just like us. They are not just a far away country or a story on the news. They are a community of individuals. They are people. Just like us.
As I listened to him pray, I imagined what it would be like for that war to be around me. To feel the terror of my country, my city, being under attack and not knowing what the future holds. I imagined what it would be like to watch my friends and family lay down their lives to protect their freedom, my freedom, and I imagined what I would do if the time came when I had to take up a weapon and do the same.
I imagined what it might feel like to listen to the world cry out in prayer and support for my country, my people, and my safety. Would it feel like they were really praying for me? Would they know I was there, scared, my world as I knew it darkening and cracking? Would they understand the consequences this war would have on the rest of my life—on the rest of the world, the rest of the country, the rest of history, yes, but also me, my life, and so many more individual lives.
The expanse of the universe makes it so easy to feel small. The size of continents, countries, cities, heck, even counties or neighborhoods make it easy to feel small. In Southern California, as I sit on the freeway in traffic, to so many people I am just another car. But to me, I am always an individual. I am always a person with thoughts and feelings that is living a life, having good days and bad days. I am one person. But I am a person. And in the Ukraine, amongst all the numbers, statistics and generalized news reports, there are millions of people. One person alongside another, fighting for their lives. Wanting peace to find their country again. Wanting their families to be safe and their future to be hopeful.
So when you pray for Ukraine, when you research ways you can support the people in the midst of their darkest days, remember they are a population made up of individuals, of stories, lives and hearts. Remember that those people are just like you and me, and that in a different world, they might be praying for us. For you. For me.
Think of what it would feel like to know that someone was praying for you. To identify with you, to understand the pain and trauma that you are feeling in a time like this, to let you know that you are seen, that you are cared for, and that peace and protection is being asked over you. There are so many people to pray for right now, but let’s not do so lazily or generally. Don’t be vague, be specific. Ignite hope, provide strength, and cast love on each and every person. Young and old and everything in between.
Pray for one person. Pray for every person.